The issue of overnight rental property restrictions, a topic that the Town of Winthrop dealt with a couple of a years ago, came up at the March 8 Twisp Town Council meeting in connection with an application to convert a home on West Twisp Avenue to nightly rental status.
Town Council members heard from West Twisp Avenue residents with concerns about the application for a house at the far end of West Twisp Avenue, where that street intersects with Borchard Lane.
Twisp currently has no overt restrictions on overnight rentals in its municipal code. Town Clerk Randy Kilmer said there is no overnight rental application per se, but an overnight rental would require a business license, a land use application, and an administrative permit, “all of which go through an internal review process from staff and others.”
Susan Ernsdorff, who lives on West Twisp Avenue, said in a presentation to the council that she and her neighbors “have numerous concerns regarding this permit application. We want to emphasize that our concerns are primarily not about this specific permit for this specific house, rather about the entire topic of permitting nightly rentals in the town of Twisp.”
“We have issues about the process of notification we have experienced regarding this application, as well as a larger concern about the tradeoff between nightly rentals and affordable housing for locals. I was surprised to find out that all houses in the Town of Twisp are eligible to be permitted for nightly rental as long as the applicants meet the checklist of requirements,” Ernsdorff said.
“Aside from our concerns about specific process issues, we are most concerned about the issue of affordable housing in the Town of Twisp, and in the whole valley,” she said. “Another consideration is that Twisp is a town of neighborhoods. I love my neighborhood. A single nightly rental in a neighborhood won’t have much impact on neighborhood cohesiveness … but several locations would.”
She asked that Twisp impose a moratorium on accepting any new nightly rental permit applications “to allow time to develop a thoughtful policy with town-wide community input.”
In a letter to the council, Phoebe Hershenow, who also lives in the West Twisp Avenue neighborhood, also asked the town to consider a moratorium on nightly rental permits.
“Although a specific application for a nightly rental in our neighborhood was the catalyst for this ‘NIMBY’ [not in my back yard] issue,” she said. “It is not about our neighborhood specifically, but about the wider community and housing market. It’s about putting the brakes on what could easily become a damaging trend in our community.”
After imposing a moratorium on nightly rental applications in 2018, the Town of Winthrop in 2019 approved a new set of regulations for overnight rental conversions.
Council members did not specifically respond to the remarks, but the topic was on this week’s council meeting agenda.
In other business at the March 8 meeting, the council:
- Agreed to submit a joint application with the Town of Winthrop for a state Department of Commerce grant, totaling $50,000, that would be used to “develop an action plan to encourage the creation of additional affordable and market rate housing, targeted to increase the housing stock for those that live and work in the Methow Valley,” according to the grant application. Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said the towns could hire one consultant to work for both jurisdictions, which would be more economically efficient than each town hiring its own consulting firm.
The scope of work proposed for 2022 would include a survey of existing conditions including economic factors affecting the local housing market, a review of current and anticipated needs, and an inventory of existing housing that would “identify areas or existing rentals that may be higher risk of displacement/conversion to short-term rentals from market forces.”
The target date for completing the report would be Aug. 1.
- Appointed Jim Brennan to a vacant, at-large position on the Parks and Recreation Commission “With backgrounds in construction, county government, small business and volunteer boards, I’m confident I could contribute to the process,” Brennan said in his application letter for the position.
- Approved a boundary line adjustment and “public purpose segregation” requested by Heidi Appel, who owns property in the Isabella Ridge neighborhood. The action includes transferring 1.44 acres of public right-of-way on Isabella Lane to the town as part of adjusting the boundaries of Appel’s property.
Council meetings update
Now that COVID restrictions are being eased, the Twisp Town Council is contemplating a return to the in-person meetings that have been suspended during the pandemic. But its options are limited until construction of the new Town Hall is completed this summer. That building will include a sizable meeting space for the council and other functions.
The council has been conducting its meetings online while the town operates out of temporary quarters on East Second Avenue.
At the council’s March 8 meeting, Mayor Soo Ing-Moody noted that even if the town finds a suitable temporary meeting spot for the council, the proceedings would still need to be available online, and the town does not have the equipment needed to provide that access.
“The remote part is the biggest obstacle,” Town Clerk Randy Kilmer said. He said he would provide more detailed information about the town’s options at this week’s council meeting.